Lashes, Directed by Christine Sherwood
In Lashes, Ashley navigates the precarious social landscape of adolescence, and when ‘fitting in’ does not protect her from the bitterness of rejection and betrayal, she discovers her own power to transcend the superficial world of her peers. Ashley (played by Charlotte Lewington) is a teenager whose boyfriend may be cheating on her (though he will not admit it), and whose best friend is too wrapped up in her own relationship problems to be bothered. Through the whole film, there is a notable absence of adults (other than the occasional shopkeeper or bartender): this is a drama of adolescence whose themes articulate the confusion and self-discovery of growing up.
Ashley’s relationships are superficial, unfulfilling, and rich in metaphor. In each interaction, there lurks just beneath the surface of intimacy an uninterested disconnection, a preoccupation with someone else. Jason (Jack Brett Anderson), Ashley’s boyfriend, appears to be loving, but only until he gets what he wants. He shows up repeatedly in text messages on Ashley’s phone, insisting that her suspicions of him are unfounded — until they’re not. Sarah (Scarlett Byrne), the best friend, also appears at first to be sympathetic to Ashley’s problems, but she is at the same time backhanded, condescending, dismissive when uninterested, and according to Ashley eager to be the centre of attention at her friend’s expense.
Still, Ashley tries to fit into this social world. She wears makeup (by Charli-Ann Williams) which provides its own veneer, masking herself just as her friends mask themselves with their false words of comfort: her lips are made redder, her hair longer, and her eyelashes artificially enormous. She even wears Sarah’s clothing, accepting a shirt that Sarah claims to be too big for her. (‘But it looks good on you’, she says.) Ashley smokes cigarettes and steals cocaine from Sarah’s brother, so she is hardly a contrasting model of good behaviour. She is a girl with relatable problems, caught in the same web of adolescent angst as her peers. Navigating that web means painfully discovering its deception and transcending its demands to look and act certain ways.
The production and costume designs (Carolina Saludes and Phoebe Claire Riley, respectively) convincingly create the world of these teenagers who express themselves through their clothing and their personal spaces. Sarah’s spacious and plush bedroom contrasts with Ashley’s more compact and messy one, and the cinematography documents the differences in class between their families. While Sarah’s house is open and spacious, Ashley’s apartment densely packs rooms together. The strategic placement of the camera reveals closeness of space and distinctions of class.
The act of shedding the artifice of her social world comes suddenly and only once Ashley can no longer stomach the betrayals by those who claim to care for her. She declares independence dramatically, and Ashley emerges triumphant as if from a successful mission. The film’s cinematography (by Sonia Rodríguez Serrano) and music (by Adam Lori) emphasise the spectacle of breaking free: the camera shakes with Ashley’s every step to the appropriate, powerful beat of ‘Animals’.
Oh, she keeps love on her veins.
Messages from deep within
You come to me in my dream
Changing fast on deep
We’re all just animals, we’re all just animals…
Will I ever be able to describe
The feeling inside
How does it feel to be alive?
Her actions take on epic significance as the rejection of the world that she once tried to fit into — and even as the rejection of the self that she presented to that world in order to be part of it. When she removes her makeup, she looks and acts like a different person — an event foreshadowed by a comment made by her friend Pete (Charlie Clarke), an outsider to this social drama: ‘I liked you better with shorter hair’. With refined aesthetic and metaphoric sense, Lashes begins at the surface of adolescent experience and doesn’t stop until it has uncovered its depth. ■
Runtime: 20 minutes
Genre: Drama, Coming-of-Age, Short
Country: United Kingdom
Find out more
Find out more about this film and its director on the pages for Lashes and Christine Sherwood in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and the film’s pages on Facebook and Twitter. Lashes is Sherwood’s graduation film from The London Film School, from which she received a masters degree in filmmaking. The film is adapted from the short story ‘Feathers and Cigarettes’ by Andrew Lloyd-Jones and has screened internationally. Sherwood has produced, written, and directed numerous films, including Waiting, Away in the Attic, and Visions of Consequence.
A trailer for Lashes can be viewed below:
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: A scene from ‘Lashes’. The London Film School.